April 06, 2017, BY Paula Cogan Myers

Studio is setting for students stitching a career in costume design

One of Native Roots’ nearly 700 employees displays the product.
Yasameen Mohammadi ’20 tests out a design.

The recently renovated costume studio in Coleman Hall has all of the resources technical theatre students need to do the work of design and garment making - everything from dress forms and sewing machines to space for drawing and works-in-progress. Professor Paula Davis, theatre & dance, says it's an inspiring space for students.

"Good design comes out of good process," says Davis. "Often, students want to solve a problem before they know what the process is, so they go directly to the end. Usually, they can do a much better design if they journey through the process."

In class, Davis illustrates this point with a music exercise that helps students understand how to analyze the feeling evoked by visual design. Students listen through earbuds to their own music while drawing shapes. Then Davis asks them to design a dance costume using the elements they drew.

Davis says it helps them experience the design process incrementally instead of anticipating what comes next. "How does a plaid feel in comparison to a stripe or denim?" she asks. "Or smooth silk in comparison to wool tweed? Those patterns and textures do symbolize things, but it's important to understand why they work on a fundamental design level."

One student who's been inspired by her design opportunities is Yasameen Mohammadi '20. As a young girl in Afghanistan, she used colored pencils and paper to draw and cut out doll clothes. As she got older, her mom taught her to sew so she could make them with fabric. Mohammadi took drawing classes in high school, then, at Bucknell, spied Davis' Costume and Fashion course. "I have a dream of opening a boutique," she says. "I'm studying management too and plan to pursue fashion design for my master's degree."

Another student who's often found in the costume studio is Arts Merit Scholar Lena Madison '17. She's gone from assisting Davis to designing her own costumes, concluding during her senior year with an independent study in costume for The Comedy of Errors.

Next year, Madison will work in New York City in product development for Macy's, where she interned last summer.

"We always talk about the transferable skills of a theater degree," Davis says. "To do theater, you have to be deadline driven. There is an opening night, and an audience is coming. Time management, a progression of work, how the process leads to the end — all of these are valuable skills for life."